Video: Victoria Ramirez Says Despite Bumps, Arts Center Project On Track

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The Arkansas Arts Center of Little Rock is spending around $4.5 million per month on its $100 million renovation, and the museum’s executive director said the project remains on course for a 2022 grand opening, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Director Victoria Ramirez gave an update on the extensive “reimagining” of the museum in an interview with Arkansas Business Online Editor Lance Turner.

More: You can watch the complete interview here, and there are more clips below.

“It’s looking like we’re still on schedule to open to the public in 2022,” Ramirez said. “We’re hoping it might be a little bit before the fall, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that our construction can continue at the pace that it has been, that our supplies can continue to be available as they have been and it’s — truly, it’s just been a success story at MacArthur Park.”

Full Interview:

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Ramirez said, while COVID-19 has restricted travel for architects and some project leaders, “we really have not skipped a beat.” She also said, at the start of the pandemic, the delay of other construction projects meant firms were able to devote more workers to the Arts Center site.

“There’s still some unknowns, and so I would say that we will have a much better idea of our exact opening date in 2022 — we’ll have a much better idea of that probably in the fall,” Ramirez said. 

On COVID-19 and Construction

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Construction is managed by Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway and Doyne Construction of North Little Rock, along with Pepper Construction of Chicago. The project’s backers, led by Stephens Inc. of Little Rock Chairman and CEO Warren Stephens, said the goal has been to spend as much of the construction budget locally as possible.

“Due to the support of the city of Little Rock and private donors, we are spending approximately $4.5 million a month at the jobsite,” Stephens, AAC Foundation chair and capital campaign co-chair, said in a news release. “We are making every effort to involve local companies and suppliers in this remarkable project. This Arts Center is for the community and built by the community, and we’re committed to constructing this new facility with the talents and expertise of Arkansas workers and companies.”

Construction officials said nearly 150 people are working at the MacArthur Park site each day. The project involves more than 50 Arkansas companies in subcontracted services, from concrete and foundations, to elevators, doors and flooring, as well on-site office. Storage space is provided by Hugg & Hall Mobile Storage of Little Rock.

On Construction Progress

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This expansion of the Arkansas Arts Center is one of the most significant construction projects currently underway in the state of Arkansas,” Jake Nabholz, president of Nabholz’s south region, said. “A project of this magnitude helps stabilize the state’s construction community, especially during these uncertain times.” 

Nabholz said about 90% of subcontractors and suppliers involved in the expansion are Arkansas-based, and that most of building budget is being spent in Arkansas.

According to the Arts Center, these companies are or have taken part in the work:

  • Rogers & Dillon Demolition & Excavating of Mayflower
  • WW/AFCO of Little Rock
  • C & F Steel Erectors of Benton
  • Glass Erectors Inc. of Mabelvale
  • Bass Commercial Concrete of Little Rock
  • Otis Elevator Co. of Little Rock
  • Action Mechanical Inc. of Barling
  • Middleton Heat & Air of Bryant

Other companies include Custom Millwork, Covington Roofing, Roberts-McNutt, Royal Overhead Door, PC Hardware, Oaks Brothers Inc., White River Flooring, McCormick Industrial Abatement Services and Smith Underground. 

The Arts Center said that, at the end of May, construction spend on the project had reached $20.2 million, with another $3.5 million projected to be spent throughout June. 

On the Design

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The project is happening through a public-private partnership, with $31 million from the city of Little Rock, funded through a hotel-tax revenue bond. 

The balance of the money is coming from private donors through a $128 million capital campaign led by Stephens and his wife Harriet. In October, the Stephenses said they had raised more than $122.7 million. 

The new Arts Center is designed by architecture firm Studio Gang of Chicago and landscape architecture firm SCAPE of New York. Last year, the Arts Center’s reimagined MacArthur Park building was named winner of the 2019 The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards in the Unbuilt–Cultural category. 

On Leadership

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